The work of Jane Austen continues to accumulate fans, centuries after her passing, and the happy result of this is a semi-regular stream of impressive screen adaptations. The latest of these is Love & Friendship – not to be confused with the novella of the same name, which was written by Austen at the age of 14. The film is actually adapted from another of the writer’s early works – Lady Susan – but the title was switched for reasons best known to its writer-director, Academy Award nominee Whit Stillman.
The story centres on the unconventional and subversive character of Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) – recently widowed, and mother of the somewhat shy Frederica Vernon (Morfydd Clark). Lady Susan and Frederica sweep into the home of her brother-in-law, Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards), where Susan sets about finding a husband for herself, and one for her daughter – all the while having a relationship with a man who is, himself, married.
It is the nature of Lady Susan that drives the narrative of this film – being a woman of great manipulative skill and with vast powers of seduction at her disposal. Her nemesis is her sister-in-law, Catherine Vernon (Emma Greenwell), whose brother – Reginald De Courcey (Xavier Samuel) – is squarely in the predatory sights of Lady Susan. The only confidante to be privy to Susan’s skulduggery is her close friend, Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny), who is equally scheming – albeit as a simple distraction from her unsatisfactory marriage to Mr Johnson (Stephen Fry).
Love & Friendship – from Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions – has already gained momentum through the festival circuit and is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on May 13th, 2016. Its trailer suggests that cast and crew alike have a distinct affinity for the satirical, biting tone of Austen at her best – making this a must-see for any fan of this phenomenal, formidable writer.